(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/17.)
There are plenty of great musicals about the American theatre – whether it be 42nd Street, Kiss Me Kate or The Producers; but somewhat fewer about Hollywood. The joy of City of Angels – given a stupendous revival at the Donmar by Josie Rourke 21 years after its West End premiere – is that it’s bitterly amusing about the treacherous LA movie industry but serves as far more than a one-note satire.
In its homage to 1940s noir, it reminds you of the glories of crime-writing and cinema. In its jazz-laden score (Cy Coleman) and sophisticated lyrics and book (David Zippel, Larry Gelbart) it flaunts both the sensual possibilities of the musical and the intellectual high-wire acts that are theatre’s forte.
Two narratives work in complex concert. In the “real” world, clacking away on a typewriter, a hack called Stine is adapting his detective novel City of Angels for the big-screen, at the meddling behest of cigar-chomping producer Buddy Fidler. In the “reel” world, his characters – notably his gumshoe alter-ego, Stone – are embroiled in a mystery involving a rich, decaying man with an iron lung, his grasping younger wife and the pair’s missing daughter/step-daughter.